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  • Unsung heroes in Japan: the fingerprints of God

    JAPAN (MNN) ―officialusnavytsunami Life goes in the shadow of a disaster.

    Japan's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis have shaken confidence in the surety of day-to-day life. However, survivors still need to eat, drink, and stay warm as they begin to wrap their minds around the enormity of rebuilding.

    Asian Access is walking alongside the people through their network of churches, the unsung heroes of the catastrophe. They sent a First response team a week after the disaster.

    Another team followed on the heels of the First Responders. Jeffrey Sonnenberg was a member of the team that wanted not only to figure out a more efficient resource plan, but also to share the hope stories.

    Thousands are still in evacuation shelters with no idea how long it will be before they can go "home" again. On a positive note, the infrastructure is showing signs of improvement. Water is flowing again, and food is making its way into the damaged areas.

    Moving out of the early days of the disaster, Sonnenberg says, "People are looking more for clothes and for containers to put clothes into as they're in the evacuation centers. So we're seeing it progress into a different stage."

    Local churches are standing in the gap for those too far removed from the urban centers that are seeing the infrastructure repaired. "They were going in to assess and have been very involved in trying to bring relief aid goods to the evacuation centers, especially some of the more isolated communities."

    It will take years to restore the damaged communities. However, "We've seen some great examples of churches going out into their communities, helping to deliver supplies to people who need them, helping people to clean out their homes, to get the muck and the junk out of their homes. Pray for the churches as they go out as the hands of Christ."

    Naturally, with nearly every headline about Japan talking about the nuclear crisis, the question had to be asked: "Is the radiation affecting the team? Are they safe?" Sonnenberg responds, "Asian Access is very much aware of the radiation issue. There is the ‘no-access' zone that we have not sent people into."

    Recent reports indicated that radiation was found in some vegetables grown near the crippled nuclear site. That report set off a panic. Is it becoming a concern for the churches involved with the food distribution?  Not really, Sonnenberg says. "Currently, the area we've been working in--Sendai, the radiation is a non-issue there. We're monitoring it very carefully."

    While the Japanese have responded with great dignity to the crisis surrounding them, the strain is taking its toll. Their church teams are in place to help. "People are still very much in a state of shock. They're still really trying to grapple with the reality [of] what's going on. People are beginning to question and [they're] wrestling with issues of death and ‘what happens after I die.'"

    Mortality questions could be the tool that gets past the traditional resistance to the Gospel. "We are seeing people being more open to hearing about Christ, but to be honest, a lot of the effort, up until now, is just being able to get people the most basic of needs. Now, we'll need to focus a lot more on the spiritual needs, as well."

    The scope of the response in Japan is both taxing and mind-boggling. And Asian Access is asking for help.  They need prayer support for their teams, as well as wisdom for how they will continue to move forward. They also need funds. Damage estimates are in the hundreds of billions. Immediate survival needs involve food, water, shelter and heat for hundreds of thousands.

    Asian Access received a $1,000,000 matching gift pledge to help meet the spiritual and physical needs. Their team is made up of 400 pastors and 1800 churches...and the potential for eternal impact is huge.  Effectively, for every gift sent to help A2 and their church teams, the impact is doubled.  

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  • Japan's relief effort intensifies

    JAPAN (MNN) ― Concerns are mounting over the economic fallout of Japan's triple disaster scourge.

    japan-tsunami-relief-fund

    Damage assessments are just beginning, but some areas are so fragile that the assessors can't get close enough to investigate. It is clear, however, that the destruction will rise into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

    For some of the survivors, rebuilding is far off in the future, and the immediate concerns involve restoring heat, electricity, running water, and finding shelter, food and communications.

    The official death toll nationally rose to 8,277 on March 20, with 12,272 still missing. Nearly 500,000 people are homeless.

    Aid is most effective purchased from inside the country, but that often requires an established network for both getting the supplies and for distribution.

    Asian Access has that ability. They've also received a $1,000,000 matching gift pledge to help meet the spiritual and physical needs of those who have been impacted the most.

    This gift and the funds given to match the pledge will help them achieve their mission for Asian Access/Japan "to unite the church" and "extend the transforming power of the Gospel."

    A2 is working with 400 pastors and 1800 churches--approximately 20-25% of the congregations in Japan--to help meet the spiritual and physical needs of several communities across the nation. They're also partnering with CRASH--a ministry of Grace Church which has grown into the largest Christian coordinating agency.

    Details are still coming in, but A2 estimates nearly 300 churches were in the tsunami-impacted areas. They've launched a disaster response team for CRASH to set up a relief base in the affected areas. A few churches are already serving as shelters and are receiving those who have been left homeless.

    If you can help, A2 has already set up a special Japan Tsunami Relief Fund. This will provide aid to hard-hit areas, delivered primarily through local churches. There may be no greater opportunity for the Gospel's advance in Japan than right now. Click here to learn more.

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  • 'Spiritual fathers' needed for church in Asia

    Asian Access looks for coaches and 'spiritual fathers' for the growing body of Christ in Asia

    ASIA (MNN) ― The church in Asia is booming. Faced with the population of the region, identifying and targeting key "influencers" is as important as evangelizing them.

    The need for spiritual mentors in Asia is huge. First Generation believers are coming to the forefront as leaders. However, this generation essentially has no "spiritual fathers."

    Joe Handley with Asian Access says many times the new Christian leaders find themselves woefully underprepared to minister. "They're thrown into the thick of being pastors, oftentimes shortly coming to Christ. Other times, there are Bible schools and seminaries, but they aren't really equipping them with the kind of mentoring and discipleship that it takes to lead the church."

    The model they're following comes out of the New Testament church. The situation they face is not unlike Paul investing in Timothy and then having a Barnabus alongside of him. Yet the dearth of mentors means many of these pastors are left wanting. Handley says, "They're the ‘Timothys' of the world today , but there's no ‘Paul' that is investing in their lives, and there's no ‘Barnabus' to come alongside. S, the need is tremendous."

    A2s pastoral team says these leaders have the desire to build on God's investment in their nation. Looking back over a 200-year survey of missions in their nation reveals God's blessing on evangelistic work despite oppressive circumstance.

    That legacy galvanized this team's commitment to training up new leaders to fulfill the Great Commission as one of the greatest missionary sending countries in the world.

    Asian Access is helping to flesh out this vision with the help of experienced pastors and disciplers. Handley explains: "We'll have 12 pastors in a session and then a seasoned veteran pastor that comes in and helps coach and mentor and disciple these fellows. The time they get is so rich and rewarding, plus they're learning from one another, which creates a dynamic community of learning."

    So, what you're doing is taking leadership development to the next level? "It's really strengthening the capacity of pastors throughout Asia, and it's really facilitating the church planting movement."

    Asian Access has established leader development programs in nine countries with the vision for establishing work in 20 countries in the next several years. There is more information on how you can help here.

     

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